John Kerry will travel to Russia next week to meet with Vladimir Putin. Topics to be discussed include Syria and the Ukraine.
Kerry is riding the merry-go round of the U.N. Geneva process, which was lauched under the leadership of Kofi Annan with U.N. Security Council backing in 2012. The process has led to two Geneva conferences neither of which produced any results, first under the coordination of Annan, then Lakhmar Brahimi, and now Stefan de Mistura, who have led the new U.N. multi-million dollar bureaucracy created in Geneva. The merry-go-round continues, whirling and whirling seemingly on its own propulsion, fueled by the illusions of those in the West who have no strategy to stop Bashar al-Assad’s civil war and atrocities.
Kerry’s assumption is that if you get all the parties talking to each other, a ceasefire will quickly ensue followed by a “political solution” to the conflict.
The West and the Arab states are at least going through the motions. A coalition of Syrian opposition groups met in Riyad, Saudi Arabia this week and are said to have reached agreement on a common negotiating position. Iran and Russia will be parties to the talks.
If the course of the Syrina conflict over the last four years is any guide, the chances of Kerry talking Putin into modifying his unqualified military and diplomatic support for al-Assad, as a result of words spoken by Obama or Kerry, seem remote. We will stay tuned.
Frederic C. Hof has summarized the wishful thinking of Kerry and Obama in an excellent opinion piece in the Wasington Post, which adroitly highlights the U.S. president’s pennchant for telling other leaders what they should do, without adopting a strategy and taking actions likely to induce them to do so.
Frederic C. Hof (Opinion). “Obama and Kerry’s wishful thinking on Syria,” Washington Post, December 11, 2015. (Frederic C. Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, served as a special adviser for transition in Syria at the State Department in 2012.)
Of course, Putin’s goals are pretty clear. He wants the E.U. and the U.S. to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea, and its ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine. The EU sanctions are up for renewal in January, 2016.
Putin would surely like to trade a lifting of sanctions for “cooperation” in fighting the Islamic State or ISIS, and vague promises of cooperation in solving the Syrian conflict.
All that is required is that Kerry and Obama look the other way and sanction Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine and its continuing violation of the prohibition against the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, contained in Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter.
Article 2(4) is norm of jus cogens or peremptory law, from which under international law there can be no exception even by agreement.
It is the fundamental norm underlying the post-war legal and security order established in 1945 in the United Nations Charter.
The Trenchant Observer